Should you guarantee results???

That question was recently posted at Consulting Success, a useful blog for aspiring and practicing consultants.

While Michael Zipursky recommends offering a guarantee, I don’t fully agree. YES for products. but NO for professional services. Here is my partial reply:

As consulting engineers, we do not guarantee our results. Lawyers do not guarantee you will win the trial, and doctors do not guarantee you will get well. We do, however, promise to provide our best professional advice.

For us, it is about setting expectations, and being brutally honest about it. Like a doctor, we can not to assume client’s “disease” — all we can do is try to help. If a potential client can not accept that, then we’re both better off not doing business in the first place.

Finally, we do offer a “no questions asked” guarantee for our software and printed materials. But not so for our time and advice.

Over the years, we have had a few potential clients “insist” on a guarantee. (Often the lawyers trying to shift the risk to us.)¬† When we explain our policy, most agree and we do business. Those that don’t agree, we turn down.

Incidentally, prospective clients who ask for a guarantee raise a flag with us. It suggests they are either a bit naive about electronic product design, have unrealistic expectations, or are on shaky financial ground. It is just good business to resolve such issues prior to providing consulting help.

A quick example. A prospective client once asked us to guarantee they would pass a government required test. A marketing shell, they had outsourced both the design and manufacturing overseas. As such, we would have no control over the implementation of any recommendations we made. We quickly passed on that one — a potential nightmare!

The bottom line – we do NOT guarantee results for our consultations, but we DO guarantee our products. After 26 years in full-time practice, that policy works for us.

P.S. If you have not visited Consulting Success (formerly Business Consulting Buzz), I recommend doing so. Although it focuses on management consulting  rather than technical consulting, I find it useful and interesting.

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